Countless fires happen every year because of faulty electrical in the home. Wiring, incorrect use of extension cords, faulty appliances – the list goes on and on and a lot of fires can be prevented.
Start with your breaker panel
Whether you have a fuse box or breaker panel, you should know when the last inspection was. There should be a label indicating the date of your last inspection, and this is important if you are not the original owner of your home. The City of Calgary, like most municipalities in the country, requires you to have your panel inspected only if you have renovated or added more electrical from an addition. However, there are many consumer advocacy groups that recommend having a professional check your electrical every decade just to be on the safe side.
Extension cord overload
The electric wires in your home are behind the walls where they remain hidden and undisturbed, emphasis on “undisturbed”. Wires won’t deteriorate and break behind the walls, whereas extension cords can be stepped on, twisted, pinched and kinked which can damage internal wires and cause shorts. Extension cords should be used for short periods of time, not as extra sources of electricity. If you are short on outlets in your home have an electrician install new outlets. This is a problem in older homes that were built before the building code dictated electrical outlets on every way. Some older homes have only two plug-ins in bedrooms as well as old two-prong outlets.
Flickering or dimmer-than-usual lights
The lights in your home don’t use a lot of electricity, so if your kitchen light starts to flicker or the bathroom lights seem less bright, it’s likely not those fixtures causing the problem. It’s probably a problem in another area of your home caused by something that draws a lot of current such as your washing machine, stove or maybe a space heater. When items with a big demand draw current away from other areas you might want to have an electrician put in a dedicated circuit for these energy drainers.
What’s that smell?
There’s a natural off-gassing that happens with new appliances, or a brand-new smell that happens with the first couple of uses of a new appliance. However, if the smell continues and it’s not quite a new-car smell, disconnect the appliance and get an electrician to check it out. If the weird smell is also coming from your electrical panel, call an electrician sooner rather than later.
Hot switch plates or electrical outlets
This should never, ever happen. Even if your toaster oven, tea kettle or other appliance that is supposed to create heat is plugged into it, that outlet that provides power to the appliance should never be hot. Sometimes current will make a switch plate a little warm, but anything over and above a “little warm” is not right. The outlet might be wired incorrectly. Your appliance is probably just fine.
Frequently tripped breakers
If the circuit breakers are always tripping or fuses blowing frequently, then your system is overloaded. If though it goes when you’re running something like a hair dryer and the circuit trips no matter where you plug it in, then it’s likely your appliance and not your breaker. You may need to upgrade the circuit or even the whole panel.
Do you hear buzzing?
Electricity is silent. If it’s buzzing or humming, something isn’t right. There might be a loose connection causing the electrical current to jump.